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Holistic approach to Cardiac Disease
by Dilip Sarkar, MD

Cardiac disease (A.Fib.) is primarily due to brain arousal. Two causes of brain arousal, sleep apnea and insomnia, have been proven to increase incidents of cardiac disease.  Brain arousal is a physiological phenomena that activates the limbic system of the brain. In turn, the limbic system sends a signal to the hypothalamus, the site of homeostasis. The hypothalamus, composed of the supra optic and paraventricular nuclei, subsequently sends a signal to the autonomic nervous system and pituitary gland, causing altered hormonal homeostasis. The pharmaceutical agents used to correct the hormonal imbalances are primarily beta-blockers and ace-inhibitors. These agents correct only the symptoms but not the root causes of the disease. On the other hand, the daily practice of yoga corrects the imbalances of the limbic system by focusing on the root causes of the disease.

The limbic system has two nuclei: Amygdala, which relates to fear, and Hippocampus, which relates to memory. Taming the limbic system through yogic maneuvers is an essential component of a holistic approach to cardiac disease. Fear is nothing but stress, which causes spasms of the para-spinal muscles. One can relax these muscles by standing against a wall for an extended period of time with one’s eyes closed and by incorporating deep yogic breaths (exhalation longer than inhalation). Memory is the content of one’s five senses (one’s conscious mind). For example, by using a non-dominant hand for everyday activities, such as brushing one’s teeth or using silverware, one can improve memory through neuroplasticity and tame the Hippocampus.

To use a cyber-analogy, the mind is like software and the physical body is like hardware. Unless the software is fixed, the hardware will never function properly. The mind can be controlled by doing balancing poses with one’s eyes closed.  Breath has both conscious and subconscious components and connects the body and mind.  By practicing pranayama, one controls the mind, and that in turn, controls the limbic system-hypothalamus-ptiuitary gland axis. The two types of pranayama that control the mind are alternate nostril breathing (Anulom-vilom pranayama) and breathing with the sound of a bee (Bhramri pranayama). The Om pranayama (repetitions of “om”) creates a vibration identical to that of the brain. When both frequencies interact, they cancel each other out through harmonic resonance. By repeated Om pranayamas, the mind becomes very calm and quiet, which is very essential to cardiac disease.

Deep breathing causes contractions of the diaphragm, supplied by the Vegas nerve. The Vegas nerve is primarily an afferent nerve and activates the para-sympathetic nervous system. This assists cardiac healing by reducing the heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate.

Only by incorporating the practices mentioned above into one’s lifestyle on a daily basis can one achieve a holistic approach to cardiac disease.


Dilip Sarkar, MD, FACS, D.Ayur
Associate Professor of  Surgery (Retired), Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA
Executive Director, School of Integrative Medicine, Taksha University, Hampton, VA
Member, Virginia Governor’s Asian Advisory Board
Ph:  757-621-7655 (cell)
e-mail:  dilipsarkarster@gmail.com
Website: http://www.dilipsarkar.com
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